Stupidest Things Overlanders Brought On Their Journey (as Well as The Smartest)

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Our stay at Campsite Quinta Lala in Cusco is one we will remember. Surrounded by some 10-15 vehicles with overland travelers we are among kindred spirits.

We may have different nationalities and unique vehicles but we are all journeying up or down or around the Pan-American Highway. We exchange stories, give tips, share laughter. Part of that happens around bonfires, which during the last two weeks have become almost a nightly ritual.

Thomas’ Infra-red Thermometer.
Nobody had this on the list to bring / should bring. With creativity you can find ways to park your vehicle straight.

On one of these nights Thomas asked me what were among the favorite things/gadgets we had brought on our journey. That got me thinking and the next day – during a grandiose barbecue – I decided to put that question to everybody. I made them a bit more specific:

  • Favorite things / utensils: 1 kitchen related / 1 car or mechanic related / 1 miscellaneous.
  • The stupidest thing they brought.
  • What they should have brought.

I can’t guarantee that it will help future overlanders much in putting up their packing list together considering the contradictions we have, but who knows.

These are the answers I got:

Kimberley & Andy, fanatic surfers from Switzerland who are driving from Chile northbound.

  • Favorites: “Vegetable peeler,” they both exclaimed as they were preparing vegetable skewers for the BBQ.  Other favorites: a saw to cut wood for bonfires (bless them!) and disinfectant for hands.
  • Stupidest: Italian espresso maker (compare this one with Blue Truck Thomas…).
  • Should have brought: A zoom camera (e.g. to photograph wildlife) and quality camping chairs (the ones they bought in South America fell apart).
Adam & his potato peeler.
Hille & her iron saw.

Wolfgang & Hille from Germany, with an impressive history of traveling, especially in Africa and South America.

  • Favorites: A toaster / a hat / a mini hacksaw “To cut off bolds and such,” Hille explains.
  • Stupidest: grill for fish (“We have never used it”).
  • Should have brought: GPS.

Hendrik, a Belgian on his second long-term trip, driving south from the USA in a self-made Mercedes G-wagon (he built the camper unit himself, which is entirely from fiber)

  • Favorites: Storage boxes for the fridge/spanner 13 / Coleman Stove to use outside (built-in stove inside, practical to have a second one for outdoor use, e.g. French fries).
  • Stupidest: Canoe (“Everywhere I wanted to use it, I could have rented one.”).
  • Should have brought: –

Bruno & Valerie are from San Martin (French-speaking island in the Caribbean).

They both had a hard time coming up with answers. They seem to have figured out exactly what works for them.

  • Favorites: Valerie mentions her large pan.  Both were glad to have brought brake pads as spare parts; they had needed them / Number 3 was a computer (laptop).
  • Stupidest: “No, I don’t have one. I use everything”.
  • Should have brought: An oven and a second solar panel (with battery).

Adam & Emily, Americans driving south with their 2-year-old daughter Colette in a Westfalia

  • Favorites: food processor / socket wrenches / camera.
  • Stupidest: “2 Frisbees,” they both exclaimed, which was followed by, “Maybe it’s time we ditch one…”.
  •  Should have brought: a kabote, which is a floating device that can function as boat as well as canoe.

Auer Family from France, with their three kids (age 13,10, and 5).

  • Favorites: Large frying pan / Swiss knife (“I use it for everything because I’m too lazy to get the tools out,” David commented) / e-book (Orlane) but inline water filter for David.
  • Stupidest: Pressure cooker (compare that with our list, see bottom).
  • Should have brought: “Oh, I wish there was space for a washing machine,” which was followed by a sigh…

Matthew & Pascale are from Canada (Quebec) and had come south with their two sons Christopher (12) and Philippe (9).

  • Favorites: tongs (“Sorry, can’t come up with anything better, but I use them all the time,” Pascale said). Other favorites: a multimeter and iPod for music.
  • Stupidest: Propane power generator (“Never use it”).
  • Should have brought: Blender to make juices (“Especially since Central America, where there is so much and cheap fruit”).

Additional idea: Bring a proper stick of Pritt glue and you can fix anything, even a LandCruiser

Sabine & Thomas, from Germany, previously journeyed through Asia driving a comfortable Mercedes bus and are now slowly heading south.

As Thomas had been working on his own list for a while, he came up with lots of things, among which:

  • Favorites: Waterbottle for cold nights in bed/socket wrench & infrared thermometer & African hose adaptor/earplugs (“To be used during the day because the car makes so much noise”!).
  • Stupidest: Boiler (“Uses too much energy; used it only once”).
  • Should have: Better noise insulation & tires that can be bought everywhere.
It may not be in Sabine’s top ten, but we were sure happy with the apple pie Sabine baked in her oven for the party.
Thomas’ hand winch

‘Blue Truck’ Thomas from Switzerland, driving south, champion making rice salads.

  • Favorites: Italian coffeemaker / manual winch (“In English also known as a ‘come along’,” Thomas added). Other favorites: heat exchanger so I have 6 liters of water for a hot shower (which was followed by an explanation that was gibberish to me, after which he tried once more with a drawing).
  • Stupidest: salad dryer.
  • Should have: –

Coen and I came up with the following:

  • Favorites: Pressure cooker (read about it here)  / Coleman Stove (read about it here)  / down blanket  (not having to sleep in sleeping bags every night is heaven).
  • Stupidest: Storm Kettle, lots of space for a gadget to only boil water with.
  • Should have brought: Oven and canoe. Both have been a discussed for the past 9 years. We bought the oven recently (read about it here), but the canoe is subject to debate.
Proper tools to fix a flat tire may be handy?
Still happy with how we built the inside with storage space and bed.

Meanwhile, the party went on!

What’s the stupidest (and best) thing you brought on your journey? Be honest and share in the comment section below so we can all have a laugh!

For more on Equipment & Gear, check out these articles:

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Thank you for your support — Karin-Marijke & Coen

32 thoughts on “Stupidest Things Overlanders Brought On Their Journey (as Well as The Smartest)

    • It comes and goes here. The first time arrived we were only 3 rigs, then it got suddenly busy and we all connected really well. Blast. Now the place is starting to get empty again… It’s like in La Paz. Sometimes there’s nobody, and then all of a sudden it’s full and fun. You must be in good company now, aren’t you?

  1. A must read for all overlanders. I am sure we can all agree that we bring way too much stuff/crap. Although I am guessing we all have the same love for fun gear!
    Thanks for the great post!

  2. If there’s anything that we should have “brought” with us was Thomas and his Blue Truck! Oh, and a fridge…

  3. What a great post!

    I think our favorite was the AeroPress coffee maker and our Really Useful boxes to store our gear. We never used our Hi-Lift jack but were glad we had one just in case.

    The worst thing we brought with us was a secondary self contained car alarm, it got so hot in Honduras that the alarm started malfunctioning and going off at random times while driving. Lesson learned – backup alarms are expensive and pointless once you take wire cutters to them.

    • +1 on the aeropress
      Just got home(Belgium) after 40 years travelling :-)))))))
      Wonder why nobody mentions the best & cheapest ‘one size fits all’ e.g. : zip-ties, tie-raps??
      Your posts make me feel blue again worldbuddies LOL
      btw: I’m a poor lonesome cowboy who’s home is where people are:-)

  4. This is actually a good post to learn from…

    Some of the things mentioned we had in our last vehicle and will include in the next: oven (can’t live without one – as vegetarians grilling is not THAT attractive), vegetable peeler (we both use it almost daily), hot water bottle (proven old fashioned method to pre-warm a cold bed). Can’t leave without a GPS, eBook reader and own laptop.

    Most useful thing right now:
    a stainless steel “Bodum” style coffee maker! Last trip we bought a so-called unbreakable one on Amazon, but the inside plastic sieve was so flimsy it broke within 3 months, the new looks more solid with a ss-sieve.

    Day-to-day:
    we both find a good selection of spices and herbs can help turn a bland meal into something exciting (+ they don’t weigh much either)

    Wish we had in our the last vehicle:
    an outside stove, to keep the heat down in the camper on hot days (unbelievable how much heat cooking adds to it).

    Stupidest thing we carried last trip all the way from Texas to Ushaia:
    an outdoor shower enclosure! We didn’t use it a single time. Either we showered inside, or where it was possible to shower outdoors we didn’t need a privacy screen.

    • Just to elaborate a little – an e-reader and a laptop each. Last time we left with a laptop to share… And we have one e-reader at the moment and it’s not enough, so another is essential when we are finally on the road again.
      Great post Karin, evoking nice memories of Quinta Lala.

  5. GREAT post guys! We’ll play…

    Favorite things:
    (Kitchen) nesting pots/pans, (Tools) Dremel tool, (Miscellaneous) my wife

    The stupidest thing we brought:
    A surfboard…I hoped my wife would change her mind about beaches 🙂

    What we should have brought:
    a mini-blender for Central America

  6. This is such a fun post. It’s especially fascinating how one person’s “don’t need” can be another person’s “favorite” or “wish I had”. We are currently driving the Americas, but are still working full time remotely as we do, so we rarely camp and are often able to rely on our rental for things we find we need. That said, in March in Mexico we went through everything we carry with us and created a box of things we didn’t need to be trucking along anymore. Not knowing quite what to do with completely usable items that someone else might want, that box is STILL sitting in the front seat of our CR-V 4 months and 4 countries later. Silly, silly. Thanks for a great read!

  7. We brought a Magic Bullet (mini blender) and love it. In fact, we stayed at that very campground with our friends from Life Remotely, and we used it to make Pisco Sours. We drank a lot of homemade margaritas in Mexico. We also have 3 different coffee making apparatuses (espresso, press pot, drip filter), along with a grinder. Priorities!

  8. Great article guys! My girlfriend Phoebe and I are about to set off for a round the world motorbike trip next month, and the packing decisions are difficult ones, especially with the limited space available….Any suggestions?! Anyways, great website and I’m looking forward to keeping up with all your adventures!

  9. Some great advice for those of us who can’t seem to appreciate what a motel room is all about. Will have to find a hand crank winch one of these days and I love the leveler.

  10. #1 – awning

    followed by good quality kitchen knife and spices. Limited but comprehensive wrench/socket set. And the rechargeable drill – suppose you could use the drill for smoothies with the right MacGyver trick?

    The solar shower was good as it also provided easy dishwashing…

    We also ended up using dental floss as a strong and universal repair device. Sewed up our rubber inner fender flaps once. And the ubber cheap Mexican folding chairs more than a few times.

    Stupidest was the surfboard and folding bicycle. We ended up dumping them.

  11. Its been a long time since ive been on your site, looks great and i just spent the last two hours reading about your travels and daydreaming of my time in SA.

    ill play

    Best thing: T-fal stacking pot set, fit in the sink of my westfalia and my bentley manual for the van

    stupidest thing: home made external shower with water pump. used once. way too much fishing, snorkeling, spearfishing gear. barely used

    wish i brought: a proper refrigerator and why not…MORE MONEY!!

    take care Karin and Coen

  12. Hi Karin and Coen,

    I absolutely love this Q&A idea for a overlanders meet up! Such a great way to learn from others.

    In my quite overloaded Landy, i have of course the necessary complete set of parts for the entire vehicle as well as all the tools to do the job. 🙂 I even have a hand winch (called a Tirfor made in France).

    Favorite things: Edgestar 43L compressor fridge/freezer, Maxtrax sand ladders, and folding Kermit outdoor chairs.

    A proper low power consumption fridge is super important to be able to buy food when it is available and store it for when you need it. The Maxtrax plastic sand ladders are vastly superior to the old aluminum ones; and they got me out of a salar in the Atacama which i had broke through on all 4 wheels (i also use them for leveling the vehicle). The wooden folding Kermit chairs are nearly indestructible and super comfortable. I would also like to add for special mention: spices, a very good paring knife, and a WiFi antenna extender.

    Stupidest things: a Kelly storm kettle, 2 Hennessy Hammocks, 2 solar showers, Eberspacher diesel powered coolant system heater.

    As you know the Kelly Kettle is very cool working, but it takes up too much space. We have a 40L water system with sink and exterior shower so the 2 solar showers are never used. The Eberspacher is just an expensive thing to fix which i never use. And the Hennessy Hammocks are very cool working for fully enclosed sleeping, but as we have a rooftop tent and interior sleep platform, they are never used. But I do think they are superior to a ground tent as long as there is something to tie them to.

    Wish I had brought: waterproof Reise Know-How maps, mini grease gun and cartridges, collapsible bowls and plates, collapsible fishing rod.

    Actually my wish list is much bigger, and most of it is already bought and waiting for me to take it back to my parked Landy. Being able to split the traveling up into blocks between being back home allows for a lot more flexibility in preparation.

    Hope to cross paths in 2014.

    • Hey Kurt, I hope we cross paths in 2014 as well. Curious where that will be 🙂 Thank you for that link to the Kermit chairs. I hadn’t seen them before. Cool. As ours are beyond well worn and need a replacement soon.

      • I also noticed that Kermit Chair company now makes a travel table. I think i will pick one up. Looks great. And i can vouch for the quality of the chairs.
        by the way, i finally got around to making a website for my travels. I added a link to yours on it. hope that is ok. You’ve seen the car before many times, so i thought it was ok. you can click on my name above to get ot the website.

        • I have seen that too, the table that is. But it keeps reminding me of the stuff that Byer of Maine makes since long. Are you familiar with that brand?

          • thanks for the reference to Byer of Maine. I had not known of them previously. Just looking at their table, it looks a little bigger in the transport configuration than the Kermit design. Though can’t be certain until one has it in one’s hands.

            I think I will see if I can pick up one of those pressure cookers you have. Great way to save cooking fuel.

  13. I believe the worst thing I have packed for camping would have to be full sized camp chairs. I have now got 2 small fishing stools and love them, The best gadget I have for camping would have to be the 9 kilo gas bottle converted to a fire pot, Top cut off 3 legs made from aluminium and 3 bolts bolted to the base for the legs to slip onto, Cooking with the Dutch oven in it is great and it will cook with wood or Bags of briquets. 🙂

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